Haruki Wada, Tokyo University Professor

A Chance Exists to Draw Up a Parliamentary Resolution During the Current Coalition Administration

A parliamentary resolution dealing with Japan's war-time past first became an issue in 1984, when the President of South Korea visited the country. There were calls from academic and religious circles that the Japan-Korea Basic Treaty signed in 1965, did not contain an apology for Japan's colonial rule. Critics wanted a parliamentary resolution that contained such an apology, saying that without one the Emperor would not be able to give a proper audience to the South Korean president.

Later, in 1988, the then chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ), Takako Doi, adopted this idea. In 1990, she drafted a proposal for a parliamentary resolution that apologized for Japan's colonial rule and war of aggression. This draft proposal by the SDPJ failed to win the support of other political parties. But in 1991, fifty years after the outbreak of war between Japan and the United States, a movement began within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to consider a parliamentary resolution that contained an apology for the war. This, however, was quashed by opposition in the LDP.

In 1993, a coalition government led by Prime Minister Morihoro Hosokawa unseated the LDP administration. Prime Minister Hosokawa openly apologized for Japan's war of aggression, and a parliamentary resolution came under discussion within each party. Once again the major obstacle was LDP opposition and the Democratic Socialist Party. In 1994, the LDP, SDPJ, and Sakigake joined forces to form a tripartite coalition. The parties agreed to 'take the opportunity of the 50th anniversary of the war's end to work aggressively toward the passage of a parliamentary resolution that repents Japan's actions in the war and sets out the country's resolve for peace in the future.' This was the result of the LDP's reluctant agreement to proposals put forward by the SDPJ and Sakigake. It was a small step forward, considering that the LDP had consistently thwarted similar attempts to draw up such a parliamentary resolution.

Symbiosis With Asia Impossible Without Repentance for the Past

In 1945 Japan quite fighting wars it had been engaged in for fifty years. In the fifty years since that time it has not fought a single war. This is a revolutionary and profoundly deep change. But with the Cold War between the United States and the former Soviet Union, and the conflict between the US and China in Asia, Japan was able to skirt the issue of apologizing for the war. The LDP, the governing party at the time, took a firm pro-American anti-Communist stand. It competed with the progressive reformist opposition, which declared unarmed neutrality. The LDP included within its wings, groups of people who viewed the war in a positive light. Because of this Japan has been unable to renounce openly its war-time


But in the last twenty years or so, with the end of the conflict between the US and China, criticism from Asian nations has been directed at Japan, and the Prime Minister has had to issue apologies regarding the past. Based on the efforts of recent Prime Ministers, it is now possible and necessary for the parliament, in the name of the people, to make a clear apology.

The nations of Asia have been freed from the conflict between the US and China, and with the end of the Cold War they have seen the demise of Communism. Asian nations are beginning to grow even more conscious of their national identities. At the same time, they are reviewing Japan's past in an increasingly critical light. Without a true apology from Japan, there can be no true cooperation or symbiosis between Japan and the nations of Asia.

The Six Main Points of a Resolution

In principle, a parliamentary resolution has to be approved unanimously. As a result, its contents will become somewhat compromised. But there are still points that can be stated clearly. First, repentance over colonial rule on the Korean peninsula. Second, repentance over the fifteen year war of aggression against China. Third, repentance over the war in the Pacific. Fourth, apologies for damage and suffering caused by these acts. Fifth, investigations of these acts and the addressing of remaining issues. And lastly, international contribution and efforts toward peace, based on the spirit of the Constitution.

Since the days of the Hosokawa administration people who supported such action have come to feel threatened. Since the establishment of the current administration under Prime Minister Murayama, there has been an active campaign to prevent a parliamentary resolution. A league of parliamentary members has been formed within the LDP to thwart passage of a resolution, and 180 of the 296 LDP members of parliament have joined. Upper House member Tadashi Itagaki, who supports the Chairman of the group, Seisuke Okuno, is the son of Seishiro Itagaki, who was responsible for the 'founding' of Manchuria and executed as a Class A war criminal. If a large number of LDP parliamentary members, young and old, are in agreement with Okuno and Itagaki on 'supporting the Great East Asian War,' then a parliamentary agreement seems impossible. But this does not mean a crisis for the LDP alone: it is also a crisis for Japan. Without a parliamentary resolution there will be grounds for serious distrust of Japan in South Korea and China.


Haruki Wada, Tokyo University Professor

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